First Debate- The Expected and Unexpected

During the presidential debate Monday night, Hillary Clinton appeared confident (if not a little haughty) but overall well prepared when compared with Donald Trump’s brash and aggressive attacks on her policies and abilities. When it came to trade concerns; however, Clinton surprisingly stumbled on what could have been an opportunity to give attention to her economic strategies. For what seemed like an obvious attacking point for Trump, Clinton had very little to say in defense of her trading policies.

Trump is not the first presidential hopeful that has brought up Clinton’s support for NAFTA and TPP. During the 2008 election, the Obama campaign made the same allegations as Trump did over Clinton’s trading policies. The Clinton campaign was quick to rebuttal saying that Clinton, “like everybody else…[was] not supposed to deviate from the position of the administration… and that certainly applies to a first lady.” At the time, Clinton also told The Huffington Post, “I believe in the general principles it [NAFTA] represented. But what we have learned is that we have to drive a tougher bargain. Our market is the market that everybody wants to be in. We should quit giving it away so willy-nilly. I believe we need tougher enforcement of the trade agreements we already have.” Both explanations would have been enough to curb Trumps accusations, but even her voting record would have backed her credibility against Trumps claims. In 2005, Clinton voted against the Central America Free Trade Agreement. In 2015 she opposed Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal.


Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State with President Obama at a cabinet meeting. Clinton put herself at odds with the president over her stance against the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal that Obama’s administration was pushing for. Photo Credit: NYT

If the 2008 attacks on her trade policy started to cobweb in the back of Clinton’s memory, Bernie Sanders was able dust them off again. In Michigan, voters rallied behind Sanders when he called out Clinton for her “disastrous trade deals.” Ultimately this cost Hillary the Michigan primary.

Recently polls have even reminded Clinton that trade policy is an issue that concerns many Americans and is something that they associate with job loss. So with an issue as big as trade is for Clinton and her campaign, why was this the one subject she appeared weak on?

There are two equal explanations. The first is that Hillary may realize that she needs to do more to ensure voters that all of her economic policies are sound. A Pew Research Poll reported that a large number of Americans think that Trump is better qualified to improve the economy than Hillary. The second reason is that Clinton’s struggle with this policy is also Trumps most valuable selling point.

On trade, Clinton knows that, “Donald Trump is formidable.” Former top White House economist Jared Bernstein describes is best when he told the Washington Post that Trump, “is talking about something real, and he is making many points that people on the left have been making.” This makes it hard for Clinton’s policy’s to stand out against Trump’s flagship campaign platform.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks to reporters aboard his plane as he travels between campaign stops in Ohio

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks to reporters aboard his plane as he travels between campaign stops in Ohio. Photo Credit: Tyler Durden

The 2016 Election stands to be neck and neck as voters make their final decision in November. If Hillary Clinton wants to widen the gap and sustain her lead, she is going to have to revitalize her trading policies. The best thing she can do for her campaign is to establish a strong, pro-American business trade policy (she currently has none in here released economic policy explanations). She needs to run that platform until voters see her as competent when it comes to trade and ensuring availability of jobs for the American people. Then, when Trump questions her trustworthiness on her trade policy she needs to refer to her voting history in the past 4 years.

In many ways this election is still up for grabs. It will be interesting to see how both candidates secure their policies, their agenda and in the end their voters.



Image is Everything Mr. President

The 1960 presidential election between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon set a new precedent on how politicians would approach campaigning in the modern era. Previously,  politicians enjoyed broad based constituents and long existing demographics, in the 1960s, counterculture movements, party disunity, and new technology forced those running for national office to rethink their campaign strategies. But what caused such a critical shift in political strategy? Many scholars attribute age, religion, and new technology to be the catalysts that brought about modern campaign. Gary Donaldson’s book The First Modern Campaign: Kennedy, Nixon, & the Election of 1960, delves into these issues and their effect on politics. Generally, Donaldson’s correlations and analysis are well founded and logical. Donaldson develops a complex narrative on how the election of 1960 reshaped presidential campaigning; however, he also misinterprets how the effect of candidates’ “personal image,” was limited to this and subsequent elections.

Personal image in the sense that the book takes it, is the persona that the candidate hopes to make the public trust and support. The idea that a candidate should take active steps to cultivate and ensure that a positive persona is formed within their constituents was not an idea new to the 1960 campaigns. This idea can been seen throughout FDR’s presidency for example. Although plagued with the degenerative effects of polio, Roosevelt worked hard to maintain a strong physical image when presenting himself to the American people. Press conferences would not show FDR’s struggle with being wheelchair bound, nor would newspapers post pictures of him with leg braces on. It was important for the president’s personal image that he be shown as someone with the physical fortitude to withstand the Germans in the West, and the Japanese in the East.

One might also consider the image candidate’s created for party alliances. No elections shows this in such prevalence as the election of 1840. This election was the first national victory for the Whig party, and the campaign in particular was unique in that, “popular and emotional appeal was organized on an unprecedented scale.” The Whig’s candidate William Henry Harrison portrayed himself as a “Hard Cider and Log Cabin candidate,” in an effort to mark himself in line with the sympathies of the common man.


“The cover of the Hard Cider and Log Cabin Almanac of 1841 depicts presidential candidate William Henry Harrison and his running mate John Tyler.” Bettmann Images



Although the powdered nose persona of the Kennedy campaign, and the incorporation of new media did have an effect on the election process since 1960, to mark the idea of personal image as one limited to this era would be a misrepresentation of the American presidency. Personal image has been a concern of candidates since the inception of the American system of government. The only factor that introduced such tremendous change into the political field in 1960 was the mode of delivery to which it reached the American people.


Trump Pulls in the Gap Against Clinton

As the 2016 race for the White House approaches Election Day, political analysts are questioning where the numbers really stand, for Hillary Clinton as well as Donald Trump. Journalist John Cassidy analyzes the most recent polling numbers in his article in The New Yorker, titled, “The Election is Still Hillary Clinton’s to Lose.” In this article Cassidy does a decent job of informing his readers in a neutral undertone; however, he conveys an overarching main point that although Clinton is leading in the polls, Trump has been closing that gap for the past few months. Although Cassidy’s points are well developed and have value, his support and explanations do not always support his analysis of polling numbers.

This is especially noted in his stance on what Cassidy calls the “battleground states,” of Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. One might make the assertion that Trump has appeared to successfully move Pennsylvania, “from lean Democratic to toss-up.” Yet, recent election history would show that Republicans have not won the Coal State since Bush Senior in 1988. With a seven point deficit coupled with his negative twenty one favorability rating, the odds are not in Trump’s favor for changing that status quo. Even with a large number of working class conservatives who are captivated by Trump’s ideas of economic populism, he still has not surpassed any former republican’s percentage of the vote seen in the past four elections, (and they all lost Pennsylvania).


Here’s what NPR’s current voter demographic map looks like. With states shaded with yellow as swing states. States with lighter tones of red and blue are considered either lean Republican, lean Democratic or toss-up.

Although Trump has gained ground in certain regions of the U.S., his closing of the gaps in the polls should not be overrated at this point during the election. With his one hundred twenty Electoral College votes to Clinton’s two hundred twenty four, Trump has a lot more work to do if he wants to secure his seat in the oval office.